|• Can literature be defined?|
|• What is literary value?|
|• What is the canon?|
|• How does the canon affect you?|
If we need to think about how we read, we also need to think about what we read. Debates over what we should read, and even what literature is, have become very important to English studies.
When we go into a bookshop or library, we know basically what to expect in the literature section. But if we try to answer the question ‘What is literature?’, no definition seems satisfactory. There are always countless exceptions to every rule.
For example, if you defined literature as fiction, where would you put fact-based writing, such as autobiographies, or plays and novels that portray historical events? Where would you put the poems that claim not to be fictional but to reveal a ‘higher’ truth? If you wanted to suggest that literature ‘represents the world’ (that it was, to use the technical term, mimetic), what would you do with the surreal poems,